Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation
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A rich companion volume to George Stevens, Jr.’s much admired book of American Film Institute seminars with the pioneering moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age, this time with a focus on filmmakers of the 1950s to present day.
The Next Generation brings together conversations with moviemakers at work from the 1950s—during the studios’ decline—to today’s Hollywood. Directors, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers, composers, film editors, and independent filmmakers appear within these pages, including Steven Spielberg, Nora Ephron, George Lucas, Sidney Poitier, Meryl Streep, David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, and more. We see how the filmmakers of today and those of Hollywood's Golden Age face the same challenges of both art and craft—to tell compelling stories on the screen. And we see the ways in which actors and directors work together, how each director has his or her own approach, and how they share techniques and theories.
it A New Hope. That title got pushed to the wayside, as did the idea that the first film, released in 1977, was actually episode four, because we didn’t want to confuse anyone. But when you think about it, “a new hope” is what Star Wars is really all about. Luke is the new hope. The second film, Empire, is a real downer, and I was nervous about doing it. It’s the middle act of a larger arc, but as a stand-alone movie I was extremely concerned with the fact that the hero gets his hand cut off by
digital? Digital from now on. Is there a particular way that you work with actors? You look at them in the eye and you’re close to them and you see the way they react to this word and that word and you start talking to them. You have to feel free to say what pops up. There are no rules. Why are you talking to them? Because what they just did didn’t quite feel correct to you. So you need to talk to them. You explain what you meant by that word there that they misinterpreted, and you talk like
an added color, but the thing really does dance and sing and tell a story on a preverbal level first. Can you talk about studying acting at CalArts? More often than not, when I get out of my car and walk onto the set of the movie, what faces me is not a problem that can be solved with a lens or a filter or a light. I have the best technicians around me. If I can articulate what I see in my mind, they’ll probably be able to realize it. But that task of making a moment seem real on the screen,
daydreaming—something that has been, I suspect, very helpful to me—armed me with an ability to slip in and out of characters. When I was about twelve we moved to a part of the world where I could see movies, and I would relate to other people what I had seen. I enjoyed doing that more than actually watching the movies themselves. I started studying acting in New York. Originally I had no intentions of becoming an actor. I had just come out of the army and was looking for things to do. I was
stables of stars under contract, so that actors had less control over their careers and it was much easier to cast leading roles. If Jimmy Stewart wasn’t available, there was Fonda or Cooper or Wayne or Cagney or Bogart or Tracy or Gable, all of whom were making several pictures every year. I remember when my father was about to begin shooting Shane with Montgomery Clift and William Holden in the leading roles, Clift suddenly bowed out, followed by Holden. Paramount was all set to postpone the